If I Have a Health Condition, Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, many people wonder whether it's right for them. BJC HealthCare wants you to have the information you need to make the right decision for yourself and your loved ones.
If you're pregnant or have a health condition such as diabetes, for example, it's important to be as informed as possible. You should always consult with your doctor about the specifics of your health condition, but here's some general information provided by our experts:
Heather Lopez, BJC Medical Group obstetrician-gynecologist with offices at Missouri Baptist Medical Center and the BJC Outpatient Center at Ellisville, encourages moms-to-be to take standard safety precautions during their pregnancy that non-pregnant women would take. "The majority of information we have now suggests that healthy pregnant women who get coronavirus will likely have a mild to moderate illness. However, we continue to recommend preventative measures including hand washing, physically distancing and wearing a mask."
Abby Chitwood, BJC Medical Group obstetrician-gynecologist with offices at Missouri Baptist Medical Center and the BJC Outpatient Center at Ellisville, urges moms-to-be to have a conversation with their provider to get clear information about the vaccine. She shares with her patients, "Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine recommend women who are pregnant have access to the vaccine. There have been no red flags or reported cases of serious side effects among pregnant women."
Pawel Dyk, MD, Missouri Baptist Medical Center oncologist, warns of the complications of cancer patients contracting the virus. "It is known that people with pre-existing health conditions such as cancer are at a higher risk of experiencing a severe COVID-19 infection. COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus, and while it has the potential to make even healthy individuals critically ill, it can be even more dangerous for those who are the most vulnerable."
Based on the opinions of physicians and other experts, we recommend that cancer patients who have completed their treatment get the vaccine. Cancer patients who have not completed their treatment should discuss risks and benefits with their oncologist.
The CDC has recommended that individuals with heart conditions be a high priority for getting the vaccine because of their elevated risk. Bradley Witbrodt, BJC Medical Group cardiologist at MoBap, agrees. "Patients with high blood pressure, heart disease and heart failure tend to experience more severe symptoms of COVID-19, which is why the vaccination is especially important for this group."
The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were tested in people with heart conditions and were found to be safe and effective. "People may experience some side effects like headache, muscle pain and fatigue, but these usually go away in a few days and mean that the body is building protection."
BJC Medical Group endocrinologists Robert Rilpuou, MD, and Puspalatha Sajja, MD, say the vaccine is safe for people with diabetes – and both encourage their patients with diabetes to get the vaccine.
"Data from the CDC have shown a 20% increase in mortality among diabetic patients. Mortality increases significantly if they have other co-morbid conditions," said Dr. Rilpuou "The vaccine is safe for diabetic patients barring other contraindications. We strongly encourage diabetic patients to get vaccinated."